Territorial Art, Design & Architecture – a transfiguration of spatial and  environmental practices to encounter with global warming

 
Territorial Art, Design & Architecture is an ongoing collaborative artistic research project exploring how the striking change of circumstances caused by global warming offers artistic practices the possibility to remediate mutual relationships with non-human worlds. The project looks to allocate its meanings through a series of collaborative hands-on processes of installing interfaces for the study of, and engagement with rural ecologies as public spaces of communality and sense of togetherness (Avila 2020). Inspired by the World of Matter project, the experimental processes of installations are efforts to territorialize processes into places intertwined with institutions, academic disciplines, and non-academic fields as well as combining the areas of art, design and architectural research, spatial and environmental politics, and visual culture. With this approach, the objective is to present other types of artistic spatial and environmental encounters that inform and transverse artistic practices with rural sites where biodiversity is at stake. The goal is to advance knowledge on how to propose art, design and architectural projects, not only focusing on developing ‘attractive public spaces’ for citizens and visitors but rather transfigured into communal spaces of mutual relationship with non-human companions.

 

Places, environments, and spaces are important concepts in art, design, and architecture. In the anthropocentric mindset these concepts are increasingly limited by the urban norm rooted in ideas of modernity which are linear trajectories, rather than relational and ecological (Massey 2005). These postures dominate projections of human relations to nature, landscapes, territories, and the planet. Designed environments are transformed into commercialized opportunities and cultivate a false idea of endless resources fostered by power relations that gives growing urban areas preferential right of interpretation. Without questioning these relations, individuals can continue to live in deterritorialized realities where the interdependence between the rural ecologies and urban ecologies, human nature and non-human nature is obscured - giving human species the false idea, that we can proceed with activities based on colonizing nature for the commodification of resources, and economical profits, accelerating global warming. With this as starting point I embarked on a series of companionship projects with colleagues, experts, and species. Together we took our efforts to investigate alternatives to the anthropocentric postures, relations, cultures, and human activities - the first steps, focusing on how to transform artistic practices through the perspective of other places than urban places, and other forms of life than the urban life, and sharing space with other companions than only human.

 

In times of advanced capitalism de-territorialized differences are produced for the sake of commodification (Braidotti 2013). Instead, Territorial Art, Design and Architecture explores territorialized diversities, commons, scales, and speeds interweaving with one another. The point of departures are the species, activities, practices, productions, cultures, and systems made invisible through urban ecologies and the lack of rural representation and ecological perspectives in art, design, and architectural disciplines. The projects presented in this research focus on developing communal spaces in places and environments where fields concerned with productivity intersect with ecologies in rural sites, that is to sites where human intervention has been minimal and categorized as the opposite to urban.

In this format the research project is presented as a personal cartography of ongoing friendships, collaborations, processes, and actions. Together we put ourselves in situations where we feel different to think different, working across the differences within our own fields, species, and other species. The projects are constructions developed as actions that operate as interfaces to reflect and learn about lost relations. The results are particular places, environments and spaces, made by particular stories, relationships and species, together composing knowledge responding to sustainability from a more rural and place sensitive approach - territorializing spatial and environmental practices, activities, and experiences. Each action presented is a research activity that unfolds a project as part of an interdisciplinary practice developed through communal inclusion and study groups of academic disciplines and non-academic fields collaborating for a common goal.

# Many Little Hands Apiary Cangas de Onis, Spain

1. Urban & Rural


Background

This action consisted in experimenting with how composing knowledge can address present-day issues of living together and living more ecologically, working against the urban norm and the idea of rural death with centralization, and densification as the only point of departure for sustainability. For this action we brought together vernacular knowledge and contemporary art, design and architecture, animal cultural studies, posthuman theory, social sciences, and agroecology, to experiment with the design of a public space in a rural site. It evolved into an experience where we involved apiculture to imagine scenarios for a contemporary rural resilient system in terms of rural economy through cultural activities and contributions by our companions the bees.

 

Together with the art´s collective Inland - led by artist Fernando Garcia Dory, biologists, apiculture experts and Konstfack spatial design students we took a closer look at the Iberian Bee. This meant investigating how the maintenance activity of local Iberian bee colonies can give form to architecture which communicates and accounts for an interdependence relationship between humans and bees. The result is a construction that hosts an apiary, home for beehives, and offers the public a spatial experience of remediation of the trauma caused by melissophobia - fear of bees – a metaphor to reflect on the ongoing trauma of the climate crisis caused by human activities leading to rapid decrease of biodiversity, Iberian bees amongst them. With this approach we investigated how architecture can operate as an interface between apiculture and bees, at the same time offering the public ways to reconnect with ancient lost relations with pollinators and better understand how humans can live together with other species in kin relationship of mutual dependency.

The final form given to the apiary architecture is limited to left over wood planks materials assorted and reused, first studied through a digital inventory with analogue and digital models and then combined with traditional building techniques. The spatial solutions and choice of location were continuously transformed in dialogue with apiculture experts reorganizing, adapting, and repositioning the construction to embrace the best local conditions for bees and relation between humans and bees and other species. We hope that the apiary architecture can operate as a centerpiece for the village, a point of reference for the community just like the abandoned chapel ones was.

 

Conclusion

The history of the word urban goes back to 1820 and contains values and power relations created in times of industrialization when migration started from the countryside to the city. Urban was applied to communicate what is civilized, modern and cultivated - created to describe the life in the city as opposite to life elsewhere as, barbaric, primitive, and uncivilized, in short rural. Through my research I argue that this two-hundred-year division by western culture has resulted in a complete disassociation from ecological systems no longer visible in growing urban areas. Urban norms are given preferential right of interpretation and we are misled to believe that the only way to achieve sustainability is more of the same but better, with more technology and more resources used for the development of urban densification into the extreme of megacities. This is a well-established agenda by scholars and scientists, most recently by the environmental philosophy of ecomodernist manifesto that resonates with a long history of this kind of proposals, arguing that the only way to decrease environmental impact on the planet, is if human beings are detached from the rural through massive and rapid urbanization, process already in movement. This leads me to the question driving my research activities; what multiple alternatives of societies, technologies and cultures that unfold in sustainable ways are we missing to explore with such agenda and what have we lost and will continue losing along the gap created by this current division between urban and rural.

With the many little hand apiaries action, we offer the art, design and architectural process a chance to reflect on its own meaning in a different frame than the urban to take some first steps addressing these questions. The work is therefore an attempt to think about new monuments to encounter with global warming searching for clues to these questions. We hope that this kind of proposals can operate like interfaces that could spread around the planet in many different ways, made up by simple constructions, all assembled by materiality’s with one purpose, inspiring to activities in better relationship with the biosphere and to reflect on the relationships lost. For this action we chose the Iberian bees as they can give us many little clues about lost relationships and situated knowledge about particular territories, its climates, its limits and its opportunities, all part of many small and big systems interweaving.


The planet, as we know it, is changing rapidly, and yet in most parts of the planet the human species is stuck in systems based on deterritorialized activities detached from the reality or the whole story of things, consuming more and more resources than ever before at a speed damaging the biosphere. With the result of this process, we eventually hope to influence how we as practitioners perceive and rethink urbanization - not derived from the dichotomy of urban as the better positive opposite to the rural, but rather as a complement for its own survival. We can conclude that the ideals of urbanity are in urgent need of a cultural transformation. From this process we learned that there is still time to compose knowledge based on what has been lost as direct consequence of the divisions between urban and rural. Therefore, we propose that a transfiguration of spatial and environmental practices to encounter with global warming is dependent on the relationships lost by binary thinking, categorizations and the division between living things.


The study of apiculture and apiaries became the opportunity to unlearn and relearn how to compose knowledge adopting an Iberian bee perspective. This perspective provided us with a collective consciousness about interdependencies between living things in this particular location and these particular landscapes, furthermore, learning how to best reorganize life to profit from the local conditions, limits and resources sufficiently. In overall in the process, we discovered many commonalities between basic needs for humans and bees to survive, such as temperature, profiting from the position of the sun, protection from cold winds and the importance of a shelter and so forth. To conclude we reflected on the fact that humans have lived in many ways through its short history on the planet. It is only during this last two hundred years that we have chosen a direction dictated by densification into growing urban regions as  a model copied all around the world in monolithic manner, today being confermed as a massive consumer of of energy and material flows (PNAS May 12, 2015 112 (19) 5985-5990; first published April 27, 2015). Is it just a coincidence that this direction also happened during a proposed geological epoch of significant 
human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change, as described in encyclopedias. Perhaps it’s time now to work with particularities and differences and allow testing many ideas about how societies can exist and co-exist with all life on the planet, and I hope through my research to continue this quest together with companions.

# A Stable for the Flock Casa de Campo in Madrid, Spain

2. Urban Ecology & Rural Ecology


Background

This action consisted in composing knowledges to host the sheep – locating food cycles as part of urban ecologies to address how to demonstrate that urban living environments consist of more than human worlds and are often prime sites for human and nonhuman ecologies (S Hinchliffe, M B Kearnes, M Degen, S Whatmore 2003). With this work we experiment with art, design and architecture involved in these nonhuman worlds and ecologies to propose a politics for urban wilds. For 12 days, from the 21st of February to the 15th of March 2020, I formed with Inland a multidisciplinary seminar and applied building workshop, composing knowledge together with shepherds and Madrid Municipality, to think and build a hosting system for a flock of sheep in an urban context. Casa de Campo, is a public park in Madrid which is the biggest in Europe. Inland brought 300 sheep and shepherds to maintain pastures, improve soils and prevent fires. They also involve an opportunity for the citizens, of all ages, to discover rural lost relationships in urban areas to sheep’s, pastoralism, grazing systems and sustainable food productions.

 

The result is a designed building systems for broad participation and a resilient economical modularity. The stable follows a series of parameters conditioned by temporality, economy, usability adaptation, scalability, and mobility. The design offers a shelter for the sheep’s when they graze in the park from wintertime to spring and give birth in late winter and early spring, before shepherded to spend the summer and autumn grazing in the mountains. The environment is a shared space of educational encounters of human and non-humans with sheep’s and shepherds. It operates as a place to host workshops with school children, artists, surrounding communities, visitors, and the Inland school of shepherds. During the summer and autumn, it becomes a space for diverse cultural events managed by Inland together with shepherds, surrounding communities and the municipality.


Conclusion

The Political Beekeeper's Library by artist Erik Sjödin

Presentation of the project together with students at Inland Car

# Ecologies of Formgiving Lögdeälven River

3. Ecology & Technology


Rivers have low primary production and therefore these systems are dependent on terrestrially-derived organic matter that falls into the stream channel, so called allochthonous material. Organic as well as fine particulate inorganic material is trapped by boulders and large wood, often whole trees, that has fallen into the channel. The organic material is decomposed and eaten by shredding insects, which in turn become food for other organisms such as dragonflies and fish.

 

The calmer areas behind the large wood and boulders serve as resting habitat for small animals and fish. In rivers that have been cleared for timber floating, boulders and large wood are rare. Without obstacles in the channel, the water flows quickly and a large part of the organic and inorganic matter is washed downstream to nearest lake or out into the sea. When food at the bottom of the food web disappears from the system, biodiversity can be negatively affected. Therefore, as part of the work of river restoration, large boulders and trees are reintroduced to the water. This results in a more varied aquatic environment, which leads to less erosion and reduced loss of organic matter.

 

In this research activities I explore the impact of the public space along the river on biodiversity. By engaging in the restoration project  ReBorn of the river and collborating with Nordmaling Municipality on the maintainance of the hiking trail, I investigate how to give form to the same effect in the watercourse as large wood or boulders and how these forms can become meaningful communal spaces for ecologies and visitors. The design process is organized around communal activities along the river. This includes field studies, workshops, seminars, courses and exhibitions in a cultural centre in Klöse. The formats will address the challenge of how fields and disciplines can work cross-sectoral to reach common goals of evirronmental restoratin . The workshops are organized around an interdisciplinary team based on three dimensions - the scientific, the historical and the artistic.

 

The project will explores decentralization of public space to nature sites, as means to change mindsets and reinvent lost relations. This cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary project contributes to the sweedish goveermental policy area "Designed living environment" by arguing for the right to architecture, design and public art for all, including the rural. It is based on the urgent increase of unequal opportunities that go along the urban and rural divide and the lack of rural and ecological perspectives in architecture, planning, design and art. In the past, densification of cities has been considered synonymous with sustainable development, creativity and innovation. However, a one-sided urban focus leads to disarmament of rural habitats, and further human distancing from non-urban ecosystems. Today, sustainable development is dependent on the rural. The proposal addresses how to make rural ecologies visible with communal  design and architecture, along a hiking trail by the River Lögdeälven in Västerbotten, Sweden. The goal is to unfold living environments on the basis of a place-sensitive interdisciplinary rural discipline that combines knowledge from the scintific and historical field with artistic, design and architectural practice. Since 2018, there is an ongoing EU-funded restoration project of the living environments in the river, called ReBorN. The goal is to continue on this legacy making the restoration visible through public design and architecture. This is on ongoing project that had been paused during covid-19 but will restart on spring 2022.

# Confederacy of Villages - Kf-Huset in Klöse, Sweden  Inland Village in Cangas De Onis, Spain - Casa delle Agriculture in Castiglione D´Otranto, Italy - Grizedale Art in England - Another Art Village Armenia

4. Mobilization & Network


As part of my artistic reseach I participated in formulating this project.  The project was choosen for founding by the EU in april 2020 and is now put into action through several activities in the participating villages with start 2021. The results  will be presented as a Confedaration of Villages exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. As part of this project I will hold a hands on installation in Klöse workshop 2022 exploring human relationships with pine forests.


The Confederacy of Villages is an international exchange network that connects five socially engaged art initiatives operating in rural communities across Europe through a programme of artistic residencies and professional exchanges that develop innovative concepts for creative problem-solving and collaborative working outside urban centres. Working with art practitioners and craftspeople, the Confederacy’s programme of conjoined skill and knowledge sharing will collaborate with rural communities to develop each village’s economic and creative autonomy, enhancing existing activity with solutions to local needs. Through a series of workshops, seminars, and events, this will be an opportunity to understand how rural communities can remain sustainable and engaging places in which to live, work and visit. The project’s resulting user manual will propose a new anchored framework for how art can better engage with and support rural communities.

 

Motivated by a detected need for new practical mechanisms which better promote cooperation across Europe’s peripheral regions, the Confederacy will support the circulation of people and skills to nurture a model of mutual care and solidarity. It will reactivate vernacular economies in areas which have proven vulnerable to recent socio-economic transformations, attracting young professionals and entrepreneurship, while producing new imaginaries about forms of life outside urban centres that will empower rural communities.

 

Our strategy will improve the capacity of cultural agents actively engaging with the rural, providing audiences and creative professionals alike with the tools and resources for them to initiate autonomous actions. Mobilizing artists and fostering professional development, the Confederacy will encourage similar initiatives to develop through its support network, creating new avenues of cooperation with like-minded organisations and professionals that will expand the reach and scope of rural arts across Europe.


# Territorial Identity Panqiao village Shanghai

Together with art, architecture and design studtens from the CAA University in Shanghai we engaged with curiosity on what territorial identity can mean for places forced to rapid cultural transition. An approach to reflect with our artistic abilities beyond the comfort zone and investigate what the identity of a territory can mean - when reflected up on through the perspective of the-nonhuman as  intimate part of human condition - making analytic studies where all matters matter.

 

"We are all matter, and we all matter" 

 

We started our exploration in the field collecting experiences, stories and samples connected to the relations between human non-human conditions in the territory of Panqiao, a village threatened by gentrification from a growing Shanghai. The focus of the five day workshop was to work for a common goal, applying and choosing methods to unfold relations found in the territory.


Centerpieces and Companions Conclusion

5. Unleraning & Relearning

 

Everything we take for granted is fading away in front of our eyes as we will all be forced to migrate to a place of uncertainty.

 

The origin to this project derived from the realization of the facts that my education and discipline has its roots on a western philosophy that is operating beyond the global environmental limits. I felt the urgency of stepping out from the comfort zone and set out on a journey of redirecting, expanding, and transforming my relationship with the world and my discipline, both culturally and philosophically. My journey started with a thought from Ernesto de Martini’s book, the end of the world - he writes about territorial anxiety - topic that the anthropologist Vito Teti uses to describe what he refers to as “the fear of losing the centerpiece” - the point of reference, shared by individuals in traditional societies. In the era of modernity, Vito describes the individual as completely free of nostalgia, a kind of settler who lives permanently in non-places, a cosmopolitan without roots or sense of belonging.


This became a starting point for my research as I came to realize that I was exactly this settler, de-territorialized, commodified and lost in the philosophical cartesian idea of humans as masters and possessors of nature rather than belonging to nature, a toxic posture contributing to global warming as we witness it. I understood during my research that my ways of teaching, as well as my discipline and the western model overall is in urgent need of cultural transformation and requires new points of references. This is how I encountered with theory that has influenced me over these years such as Spinoza, Deleuze, Haraway, Braidotti, to name a few. Still, the most important influences on this research have been how I have evolved by situating aspects of the theories in real hands-on efforts together with academic colleagues from different fields, communities collaborating, students and experts from non-academic fields such as beekeepers, shepherds, farmers, craftsmen, and activists.

 

My conclusion from this ongoing journey is that we haft to take the risk to transverse with our respective disciplines to encounter with global warming. With this in mind, embark on a metamorphic journey of becoming kin companions culturally and philosophically with the world, rather than settlers on the world. The explorations realized are efforts to embody how these journeys could feel - taking the small steps of intermediate how to better co-exist with worlds. With this approach I have collected knowledge to advance knoweldge on how we could give form to alternative communal spaces that become centerpieces – what i would refer to  as monuments of companions remediating kinship relationships with one and other, with the world and with worlds. It is clear from what we are witnessing that there is a new generation with no fear of losing the points of references of modernity, colonialism, and oppression – but rather demanding centerpieces of de-colonization and accountable transformation. Therefore, an important question to continue with as result of this artistic research is how art, design and architectural disciplines can contribute to these tranformation with responsibility-taking - accountable actions - simultaneously rediscovering the  discipline as a process of becoming a better companions. This include taking better care of what kind of projects we put our common efforts on and becoming more conscious on the activities these projects supports. 

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